STUTTGART, Germany - Sara Errani moved a step closer to her first title of the season when a wrist injury forced Carla Suárez Navarro to retire from their quarterfinal at the Porsche Tennis Grand Prix on Friday.
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Over the past few seasons, Errani and Suárez Navarro have earned reputations as two of the game's most consistent performers on clay. Yet despite all this success, neither has fared particularly well in Stuttgart, mustering just one main draw win between them from seven previous visits.
Nevertheless, both have looked in good touch this week, advancing to the last eight without dropping a set, with Suárez Navarro particularly impressive during her straight set win over No.4 seed Angelique Kerber last time out.
The Turning Point
Recent encounters between the two, most notably their tussle at last year's French Open, have been even affairs and there was little to separate them during the opening exchanges. After a couple of early breaks, it was Errani that grabbed the match by the scruff of the neck, employing her usual mix of craft and graft to reel off 10 straight points on her way to the opening set.
When she helped herself to a fourth straight game, thanks to couple more beautifully crafted points, she looked in danger of running away with it. However, Suárez Navarro had other ideas, showing admirable character to work her way back into the match and take the set into a tie-break.
With the finishing line in sight, a few errors began to creep into Errani's game and the Spaniard capitalized, fending off a match point to pinch the tie-break. Unfortunately, her comeback was short lived and a wrist injury forced her to retire soon after, when trailing 63 67(6) 30.
On Saturday, Errani will take on Maria Sharapova - and her 11-match unbeaten run in Stuttgart - with a place in not only the final but also the Top 10 at stake. Errani has lost all four of their previous meetings in straight sets, with the most recent of these coming last year, in Miami.
"It'll be a very difficult match, of course," Errani said when asked about facing Sharapova. "She's very strong and very aggressive on this court so it will not be easy to play but I will try to do my best.
"You need to be quite aggressive, try to move her for sure. But with her the points are always not too long. You have to be ready for three or four shots."